I won’t speak for everyone, but there seems to be quite a few different reasons people decide to start rucking. Some do it to make walking more challenging and a better workout. Some do it for the added challenge. Others do it as part of specific events or programs. For me, it’s a mix of most of these reasons. Before I go to far, let me make sure to explain what rucking is. In its simplest form, rucking is moving, either walking, jogging, or running, with weight on your back. Most people will use some type of backpack to carry the weight, while those that ruck regularly tend to get a ruck or rucksack which is a stronger and more reinforced backpack designed to specifically carry weight in the pack.
Okay, back to my story. About 2 and a half years ago is when I started rucking regularly though I had heard about rucking quite a while before that from both friends and family. From the family side, my dad, who has been retired from the Army for many years now, and I spoke about his experience from the military during various conversations about training and exercising. My friends on the other hand talked about it because of a few specific races and challenges that it was either required for or very beneficial to use as training. After getting more deeply involved with training and competing in OCR, rucking started to sound like another avenue I should look at pursuing.
The real spark to start rucking for me was when a couple of friends of mine told me about a new local race here in Colorado that was going to be held in May of 2018. I heard about the upcoming race during the winter prior and thought it would be cool to give it a try. However, I wasn’t one to just jump in and do it without any training if I could help it. Plus, it was a mid-length race that was expected to be about 5 miles long. So now that I wanted to ruck, the next challenge was to figure out how best to start training. Since this was a race, I needed to start running with my ruck and the backpacks I had did not work well for this at all. Luckily, those same friends who told me about the race also had a ruck that they weren’t using at the time and allowed me to borrow it. Let me tell you … the difference between using some random backpack and a specifically designed ruck it massive! It fit so much better when moving and running and was so much more comfortable when you start using it for more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time.
Just in case some of you are wondering more about ruck specifics, let me diverge a bit as to what types of things I look for and utilize in my ruck. First off, you want to look for something that is made from heavy duty and durable material. While you can find cheaper bags out there that are advertised as rucks, they tend to wear out much faster in the seams, stitching, and overall durability. I’ve used two primary rucks. I started with a leading brand ruck, which I used for a couple of years and have now been using the new Cerus RukX1 exclusively for my training this year. Regardless of which one I am training with, I add a custom hip belt that attaches using standard 1.5 inch webbing through the buckles that are already part of both rucks. I picked this up from a separate site and can share more details with anyone that’s interested. Other important aspects are padded, adjustable, and comfortable shoulder straps and specific pockets in the ruck that hold your weight as close to your body as possible and up towards your shoulder blades instead of down low near your lower back. Other than that, the only other thing that is really important to me is to ensure you have straps that hold tight so that once you get them adjusted and start moving, you don’t have to keep messing with them and adjusting when you are trying to work out or race.
Now that we talked about the ruck itself, I’d also like to share some advice about starting to ruck or training with a ruck. Like any new exercise, make sure to start low and slow to give your body a chance to adjust. Unfortunately, I didn’t do well at this port when I first started rucking. I wanted to get running and started increasing the weight way too fast. Because of this, I over stressed the muscled in the bottom of my foot and back towards my heel which left me with sore and tender feet the rest of the year. I had to be very careful with my running and training all year in order to be able to race and not further aggravate this injury. For those new to rucking, I would recommend starting out at a lower distance. If you are used to running 3-5 miles at a time, you should start rucking at a single mile and slowly build up; similar to how you would ramp up a running program. I’d say to only add about a half mile a week and to not add distance if you increase the weight. In the same manner of increasing distance, you should only add weight in small increments, between 2 and 5 pounds per week depending on your level and ability. In general, the target weight for rucking will depend on the event. Most men will aim for rucking somewhere in the 30-40 pound range in their pack and women around 20-25 pounds. However, the weight and distance you ruck with should be based upon what you are trying to do and what your body is comfortable with (relatively). Rucking is still a workout so you want to push yourself where you can.
As for me, I’ve been rucking consistently the past 2 years. I’ve found it a great addition to my normal running and exercise regime. It has helped me refine and develop better running mechanics because when you run with extra weight, you tend to go slower and it allows you the ability to focus on your form which is important when moving with the additional weight in your ruck. I also recommend rucking to just about everyone who asks about it (and many who don’t).
Regardless of your ability level and whether you walk or run, try adding a bit and tell me what you think!